Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Parfumerie Générale Indochine 25 eau de toilette is the creation of brand owner and perfumer Pierre Guillaume.  It can be purchased from the company website or from, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $125.  My review is based on a generous decant of the fragrance sent to me by lovely friend and perfume blogger, Birgit, of Olfactoria Travels.  Here is the link to her review of Indochine.

Lyrics from the opening verse of the Stevie Nick's song Gypsy (written by Nicks and released on Fleeetwood Mac's 1982 album, Mirage). Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Photo (top of page) of Stevie Nicks can be found at a number of sites on the Internet; bottle photo is from

March 17, 2012:

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Parfumerie Générale Indochine: Gypsy Treasure

So I’m back to the velvet underground,
Back to the floor that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers,
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy … that I was.

When I was in college in the early 80s, I practically wore a groove in my roommate’s Fleetwood Mac Mirage album, setting the needle over and over again on Stevie Nick’s song, Gypsy. I was the poetic type and, like many women of my generation, a Stevie Nicks fan. This song of hers which spoke of solitary resolve in the face of wistful regret appealed to both my melancholic nature and my ideas of what a strong woman should be; or maybe I should say what is most true, which is simply that I found it quietly moving. Perhaps that’s why it has come floating back to me in recent days when I’ve been wearing Parfumerie Générale Indochine—a contemplative fragrance that, for all its quietude, somehow manages to be arresting on an emotional level. The strong pull of nostalgia is what lends the light-wearing Indochine weight. Initially it smells like a sandalwood box in which photographs, letters and other precious mementos have been tucked away: poems copied in a lover’s hand, shells from a distant shore, partially burned incense sticks and dusty candles. As the scent develops, though, it goes through a subtle shift, and in its dry-down stage there is a sanded-smooth sweetness to Indochine that is so easy-wearing and comfortable, it makes one feel good about being in one’s own skin. If ever a scent could say, “These are my memories—the little scraps of paper and trinkets that make me long for the past, but I’ve decided to stow them away in a pretty box and move on now,” then Indochine is that scent.

Though I strongly want to call Indochine a sandalwood fragrance, my understanding is that it is not; according to what I’ve read, the fragrance is built around two key notes, Siam benzoin resin and tanakha wood, the latter of which is said to smell like sandalwood. Tanakha (also spelled thanaka) is native to the country of Myanmar (formerly Burma), where for over 2000 years it has been used cosmetically—the bark and wood of the tree ground and mixed with water to create a yellowish-white paste worn as a traditional form of adornment. Kampot pepper, Ceylon cardamom and Laos honey are among Indochine’s other notes.

In the first half-hour of wear, there is a parched and incense-like quality to Indochine. It most resembles a smoky sandalwood scent at this early stage, and if I were to describe its character, I would call it exotic yet reserved. The tingly spiciness of cardamom and pepper intersecting with the light acridness of honey mimics the smell of tobacco, and the combination not only lends an air of aridity to the scent, but is one of the reasons I picture the fragrance in my mind as a sandalwood box, as every good box must have some hand-rolled cigarettes stashed inside. Indochine’s benzoin is more resinous than vanillic at this point, again contributing to that wooden trinket-box smell. I should mention here that despite the associations I set out at the beginning of this review, of how it reminds me of Stevie Nicks’ Gypsy, I do not in any way mean to imply that this is a chick-fragrance. Indochine does not lean in any gender direction, in my opinion—it’s simply a great woody-oriental scent that manages to smell textured and austere at the same time (something I’ll make clearer as I describe the drydown in the next paragraph).

Eventually the benzoin does begin to smell more vanillic, and the smoky, incense-like character of Indochine fades considerably after about an hour into its wear. Though the fragrance loses its exoticism in the process, the your-skin-only-better scent that is left behind is not a bad souvenir—no, not bad at all. There is still enough woodiness in the drydown to keep Indochine interesting and to prevent it from edging over into the kind of sentimental sweetness that would take away Indochine’s backbone. And too, the minimalistic base strikes me as being a natural extension of the fragrance’s overall aesthetic; Indochine is not an Arabian Nights-style oriental, which would occasion a suitably sumptuous and pillowy base to complete the fantasy, but rather a more photorealistic olfactory-homage to a particular area of the Orient. It has what I think of as an Asian-inspired simplicity and stays close to the body in terms of its sillage. There are days when I wear Indochine and find myself reapplying it to get more of a hit of that arid, incense-y sandalwood scent that I love so much in the beginning, but there are also days when I just wear it and go, and later find myself surprised to be turning a corner and catching a whiff of something that smells so gently sweet and hard-to-describe. It’s like smelling your own aura and realizing that, while all things must pass, within your skin is the lingering memory of their sweetness.

And with this reminder, you resolve to pick up your tambourine and play on.